Talent vs. Hard Work – Which is more important?

Both talent and hard work are important if you want to grow your business.

But I firmly believe that talent is more important because it makes things easier.

But what exactly do I mean by “talent”?

Let’s take an example from an incident that happened with me in early 2015.

In those days I was very new to entrepreneurship and had just started my photography education business. I was very enthusiastic about doing photography workshops in the city of Pune and it was a business that had begun to work really well for me.

The exact day was Saturday, 7th March 2015. I had a photography workshop scheduled to take place the next day at a training center at J.M Road in Pune.

I was fairly relaxed on Saturday evening because everything was set – the students who were going to come, the venue, the training material, etc.

But then I got a call from a friend of mine who had come to Pune from Mumbai. He was my MBA classmate whom I had not been in touch with for around 3 years since graduating.

We decided to meet at a pub. To my surprise, even some other batch mates of mine who had traveled with him were present there.

My initial plan was to catch up on some memories, have one drink and head back home quickly so I could get a good nights sleep before my workshop the next day.

But it did not quite turn out that way.

One drink became two. Two drinks became three. And so on.

I completely got absorbed in the chit chat session and soon enough, found myself hopelessly intoxicated.

The “buzz” was quickly replaced by the numbest of panic attacks. I knew I had messed up because I had completely undermined the energy needed for the next day’s workshop.

My photography workshops are a physically intense affair since they are 5 hours in duration which not only involves speaking but continually going to each of the twenty odd students to help them out with the camera settings. I also need to reach the training room earlier than my students and make sure everything is set up well. In all it occupies around 9-10 hours of travelling and work.

When I thought of all this, I knew I was in trouble.

I was so drunk that my friends were not willing to let me go back home on my own.

I was dropped off by one of the sober ones and I remember the moment I entered my room, I puked my guts out. Before passing out, I did manage to set up my alarm for the next day so at least I would have a chance to assess whether I would be able to do the workshop or not.

Till this day I remember the feeling I had when I woke up the next day. It was of sheer disappointment because I immediately knew there was no way I could conduct the workshop that day. I was drained out and was enduring one of the worst hangovers I had ever had.

However, after lying in the bed for a couple of minutes, I told myself that I’ll get ready anyway but that I’ll take the final decision after having breakfast.

I felt slightly better after breakfast and decided to go ahead with the workshop. “Cancelling” a workshop had always been one of my mini-nightmares and I was really desperate for it to not come true so early on in my business.

Here’s the thing – Even though I was in a weak condition, I still managed to pull through and complete the workshop that day.

That’s because when I started speaking in front of my students, it did what it always does for me – it turned me on.

Speaking is my passion. But more importantly, it’s my talent.

It’s my talent because it comes easily to me. I don’t have to expend too much energy on the speaking part.

That day my gut knew that if I had enough energy to be able to reach the training room and manage to stand for 4-5 hours, I would be able to pull this off.

But if I was a person who really struggled to speak and always had to practice the parts where I’m speaking, then that day would have been a nightmare because further energy would have been required to perform that act. The energy which I simply did not have.

The problematic part was that I felt guilty because I knew I was not at my best and it felt like I had cheated my students a bit. It kicked some sense into me and I never again gave myself such a “high” task.

By the way here are three pictures from that workshop. You’ll probably be able to notice from my eyes that I was anything but 100%.

But coming back to our topic, here’s what I feel – Your talent will always make things easier for you because it is where your unfair advantage lies.

Even when I make my online courses, a lot of times, I don’t write scripts. That’s again because writing a script would be too much work and I prefer to use my talent of speaking to make up for it as long as the final result is satisfactory. It makes things easier for me and increases my productivity and output.

I firmly believe that having your talent as the most important ingredient of your business will provide you with the best USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and the highest barrier to entry when it comes to your competition since your talent is unique to you and is not easily replaceable.

That’s why one of my main aims when running a business is to make sure it is primarily based on activities that I’m good at – Speaking, writing, shooting and editing videos, etc and less dependent on activities where I’m not naturally good.

For instance, while speaking maybe my talent, there are a lot of things that don’t come naturally to me and I really struggle at those. For example, I really struggle when it comes to forming networks or affiliations or joint ventures with other people. It’s a big weakness I have. I have NEVER been able to form even a single successful affiliation with another person. The very thought of it just turns me off and it all feels like a struggle.

When you know you have a weakness, you basically have three options:

  • Ignore it completely and run your business in such a way that you don’t require it
  • Try to get good at it even if it means going against your nature
  • Hire someone else to do it whose own talent might be that very thing

Till now I have taken the first option but I’m willing to take the third one if ever required. However, I doubt I will take the second option because that would mean I’m focusing more on my weakness than my strength and that can prove to be an uphill battle.

But how do you find out what your talent is?

The thing about talent is that sometimes you may not even recognize that you have a particular talent. It’s very easy to take your natural talent for granted.

That’s because we have been conditioned to think that everything has to come as a result of hard work and painful effort. That’s not true. Your talent can easily get you things which might come from a lot of painful effort for other people who don’t have that talent.

I myself never understood that speaking was my talent for a long time. A few years back I tried to hire some part-time trainers for my workshops. Upon interviewing them, I started to realize that this skill of speaking which I was taking for granted was not that easy for other people. I hardly got any applicants for the job.

Ultimately I gave the job to my part-time assistant, Manish, who had been with me for quite some time. He eventually did a great job at it but he had to rehearse things a lot, carry a paper with the script during speaking and he would get very nervous too.

I used to love seeing the happiness on his face when he knew he had done a good job. But it also reminded me to be grateful for this talent I had because if I had to rehearse things myself before speaking, then there’s no way I would have been able to form a business around training.

So you can see that Manish did a great job at speaking but after putting in a lot of hard work. That means it’s probably not his natural talent. He runs a successful grocery shop in Pune and his talent lies in maintaining amazing relationships with his suppliers and customers. When I see him at his shop dealing with these people, it all seems so effortless for him. I COULD NEVER DO THAT. Because dealing with people is also a talent and I’m very poor at it. I would never be able to run a shop as successfully as Manish does.

So you can see that every one can have a different type of talent.

In my opinion, the number one criteria for recognizing your talent has to be that it has to be a skill that comes relatively easily to you but at the same time it is difficult for a lot of other people. You can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which skills come to me naturally with less effort?
  • Which are the activities where I feel that I’m in the “flow” and lose track of time?
  • Which are things for which I receive the most compliments from people even though I may have felt I did not deserve the compliment because it was too easy?
  • Which are the areas of my life where I excel at without putting in too much effort?
  • Which are the things I enjoy doing? (Because usually we enjoy things when we are good at them)

It’s not always easy to find your talent immediately. But what you have to keep in mind is that you have to become a deep observer of everything you do. That will begin to get you closer.

Also remember that talent can be developed. If you feel you don’t have a talent at present, you can always choose something that you feel WILL come naturally to you if you pursue it. And then go and develop that talent.

Once you’ve discovered what your talent is, then the aspect of hard work comes in. Because as they say – “Hard work will beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard”.

So to sum up, here’s the conclusion:

  • Hard work + No Talent = Uphill battle which is tough to sustain
  • Talent + No Hard Work = Slightly better in my opinion but you risk being overtaken by a competitor with a similar level of talent and a better work ethic.
  • Talent + Hard Work = The best way to run your business

So remember to make sure that your business always revolves around your talent and natural abilities. It will be your best bet towards success but more importantly, you’ll enjoy running it.

Do let me know your opinion on this topic in the comments section below.

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    1. Thanks for practical inputs ..

      Still i m in mess where i am strong ?

      Finding it still ..speaking or writing ?

      1. Yes, I understand. Finding your talent can be a challenging task. It can involve a bit of trial and error. Try as many things as possible and observe closely. In my opinion, if you’re good at speaking, writing is something you’ll be able to develop with ease. So why not both? Speaking can help you in creating your online courses and writing can help you in content marketing related stuff for your website.

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